Booming Chinook Run Thrill Fishermenby Associated Press
The Seattle Times, September 20, 2004
CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. -- An enormous surge in the number of Chinook salmon charging past the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam has fishermen rejoicing and fisheries managers revising their estimates.
Starting last month, the fall Chinook began their run from the ocean upstream to their spawning ground in the Snake and Columbia rivers. On their way, they pass through the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam, between Oregon and Washington, where the daily counts average between 10,000 and 25,000 fish a day.
But on Tuesday that number climbed to 34,000.
Now, biologists expect the fall Chinook run to exceed 700,000 fish, far surpassing the preseason estimate of 634,000.
Scientists say the strong showing is part of a cyclical shift in the ocean climate, which has made food more available, boosting salmon survival.
The second wind has allowed Native American tribes to continue gill netting and selling salmon along the Columbia River and may allow fishermen to avoid the early closure of the fall Chinook season.
Efforts to restore habitat and make the rivers' dams less deadly probably also have helped.
Some salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia Basin — supplemented by tens of millions of hatchery-propagated fish released each year — have reached the highest numbers since completion of Bonneville Dam in 1938.
In a positive sign, fish counts set a daily record a week ago at Lower Granite Dam, the uppermost dam with fish passing on the Snake River. The daily count, 976 fish, is the highest in a single day since the dam was built in 1975, Ellis said. That daily number also is more than the entire season total in all but 11 of the past 20 years.
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